We have just published (in NFB 10) a mammoth article on the current state of play regarding this man's death & the resulting investigation/disinformation war between the Met Police & MI6. Part 1 of a 2 part series. We welcome this opportunity to cover MI6 in rather more detail than hitherto. No conspiracy theorising or wild assertions--merely rigorous dispassionate analysis up to our usual standards. The piece takes up the bulk of issue 10--some of it (the start/timeline) is below as well as in the hard copy magazine, but only the magazine has the entire article. To ensure you get the whole thing, subscribe today (visit www.borderlandmagazine.co.uk to buy on-line). As it develops, the article will be like our investigation into the 1999 Soho nail-bombing scandal, where an initial exploratory article in issue 3 was followed up subsequently. Rather than continually revise the article once up (the bane of internet pseudo-facticity), we will cover further revelations/events in the hard copy magazine, though the chronology below will be updated on-line, as and when. Rest assured, NFB is, in our inimitable way, 'on the case'. At www.borderlandmagazine.co.uk not only can you buy issue 10, there are two film clips of editor Dr Larry O'Hara visiting various sites associated with the case: 36 Alderney Street & surrounds, MI6 HQ, Bar-Code, Patisserie Valerie, Holland Park Tube Station. Check them out.
Bear with us--we are also updating the rest of this upgraded site and working on the next issue (11) already. Speaking of articles, if you fancy writing one that conforms to our interests and standards--contact us. Go to the contact/media page and look at 'Notes For Contributors'.
GARETH WILLIAMS: MURDERED TWICE? (Part 1 of 2)
On 23/8/10 the naked body of Gareth Williams, a 31 year-old Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) worker, seconded from Cheltenham to MI6 was found, inside a holdall placed in a bath at his home. The door of flat 4 36 Alderney Street Pimlico was locked from the outside, and despite three post-mortems and police appeals for help, exactly how and why he died remains unclear. On current evidence, and in the view of the coroner, it was almost certainly murder--and Williams’ reputation has certainly taken a hit, with an abundance of lurid and fantastical stories about his life and death still swirling in the media ether. Hence the title: murdered in reality and memory. NFB has taken a keen interest from the start.
At time of writing the inquest has just concluded, coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox declaring that “on the balance of probability Gareth was unlawfully killed“. The inquest itself was startling, not least because new facts came out that even DCI Sebire, in charge of the investigation, had not known earlier. Six aspects are covered in this first article, which chronologically focusses on what happened before the inquest.
(1) Who was Gareth Williams? How important was his work for GCHQ & MI6?
(2) What are the broadly accepted facts of both denouement and resultant investigation? A time-line is useful: as is discernment. In that regard some contested but relevant snippets are included.
(3) Scanning the extensive news coverage, in light of NFB’s basic paradigm of the media as a battleground on which vicious inter-agency turf wars take place. The principal conflict here is the Metropolitan Police (Homicide Squad) versus MI6. I sketch out the phases (to date) in this 'disinformation war'.
(4) Supplementing the previous point, an exploration, via output analysis, of the journalistic spook outriders reporting events, providing dates & references. With the exception of Times/Sunday Times/News of the World journalists whose oeuvre is only available in hard copy or by 'pay to view', most articles specified can be obtained on two excellent sites. The first is devoted specifically to the Gareth Williams case: http://tswktm.blogspot.com. The second has most relevant items (if you search) plus other articles by featured journalists placing their work in context--http://journalisted.com/. As it happens, the sheer profusion of journalistic output has precipitated me to refine and further codify the various types of SPIJ (State-compromised Pseudo-Investigative Journalism). That research will be placed on the NFB web-site in due course.
(5) Having (hopefully) put 'official conspiracy theorists' to the sword, I look at unofficial conspiracy theorists, just as pernicious in spreading disinformation, and at times equally ludicrous.
(6) Some journalists have acquitted themselves honourably, and other commentators raised useful points: all are analysed and given due credit.
Part Two, in NFB11, will cover:
(6) The inquest. In particular we will look at what contradicts and illuminates the earlier narrative. Not just media stories, but inter-agency friction, especially the role of SO15 (anti-terrorist squad) as a lightning rod protecting MI6.
(7) Reasoned conjecture as to the possible involvement of domestic and overseas secret state agencies.
(8) A reprise/summary of suspicious aspects to this case: disinformation peddled, facts/lines of inquiry glossed over, agendas pursued. Sifting should highlight the questions to be answered, and who exactly needs to answer them. This will hopefully help his family and other interested parties achieve ‘closure’.
WHY GARETH WILLIAMS IS IMPORTANT
Detailed biographical speculation need not concern us , but a few points. Welsh in origin, hailing from the lovely island of Anglesey, Gareth was somewhat solitary, his main hobby cycling to a high level of proficiency. A mathematical genius who obtained a PhD at a young age, but 'kept himself to himself'. Regarding this consensus view, two comments.
First, his family would not realistically know all details of his intimate personal life--especially as he had lived away from home for many years.
Second, the image of Gareth as a 'loner' has been propagated by MI6, the very body that prevented homicide police talking directly to actual friends (within SIS/GCHQ) who might have a different story to tell.
Fragments of his career, most uncontested, have emerged, and given the lack of dispute (one source aside, it seems reasonable to put them together chronologically, pending further illumination. Recruited at Manchester University in 2000 he joined GCHQ Cheltenham (the British state's listening/surveillance centre) in 2001. Rather less glamorous than MI6 or MI5, GCHQ is nonetheless indispensable to the UK's intelligence apparatus. Integrally linked with, and subordinate to, the USA's National Security Agency (NSA) , this nexus has done GCHQ no harm since 9/11, as perceived CIA failures at that time led the Bush White House to favour the NSA over the CIA. Williams first assignment of note was a trip to Bulgaria, on behalf of MI5. In 2003 he supposedly spent 6 months at the Menwith Hill listening centre, Yorkshire . In 2006 he worked at Fort Meade Texas, home base of the US 'National Security Agency' (NSA), their GCHQ equivalent, and reportedly visited frequently, up to four times a year, in three to four week stints . It has been suggested that Williams first rose to internal prominence helping monitor/foil the August 2006 'Liquid Bomb Plot'.
He seems to have been an outstanding code-breaker, helping to monitor Taliban communications in Afghanistan (two trips to Kabul claimed) and 'serious crime' suspects at home . A clue to his Afghan role can be gleaned from a 2008 story about the Taliban using Skype calls (rather than land-lines/traditional mobiles) to evade MI6 detection. Apparently, the "British and American governments are investing considerable resources to crack the codes" --Williams was most likely one. Al Qaeda and their allies were not just tackled overseas--he played some part in a recent operation whereby three aeroplanes fitted with listening devices swept over a city the size of Bradford to hoover up all mobile phone conversations for analysis . The Bradford reference is no accident, given its ethnic composition. It has also been claimed that Williams' took part in a "secret eavesdropping mission in Afghanistan...just weeks before his mystery death", using his skill at voice analysis to identity Pakistani-born Briton Abdul Jabbar & Ahmed Sidiqi, both involved in (alleged) recent plots to carry out mass atrocities in Europe . Whether he flew to Afghanistan from the US or UK is not stated. That might be because he visited as part of a ten-strong joint GCHQ/NSA team, according to one report.
There is no doubting the high priority work Williams probably undertook--cyber-terrorism & 'terrorism' per se are among the British state's declared highest (Tier 1) security priorities . Since his death, the importance of such work has been reiterated time and again. While such matters are usually reported in the media as the UK/West generally 'defending' itself against external cyber-threats, the reality is more complex, and the top-secret US Presidential Directive 16 of July 2002 explicitly authorises pre-emptive cyber-war against foreign enemies, something Williams would be aware of, perhaps involved in . There is an undoubted overlap between cyber-crime & more traditional illegal enterprises, and defence against Turkish Chinese & Russian organised crime was reportedly something Williams was involved in.. Of these, the Russian is the one most talked about in UK security circles. Although Williams was fast approaching the end of his MI6 secondment, on return to GCHQ he was to head up (or at least play a part in) the new 'Cyber-Security Operations Centre', continuing his work shoring up the City of London cyber-defences . It has been strongly suggested by a ‘security source’ (MI6) that Williams was “working on secret technology to target Russian criminal gangs who launder stolen money through Britain”
How vital an asset Williams was is difficult to assess without knowing how many others were involved--but he certainly had the signs of a technical high flier. Was he, however, operational in the sense of meeting/running field agents, or undertaking missions involving the assumption of fake identities & so forth, moving into James Bond territory? No hint of such has been disclosed by official sources, even though possessing at least four mobile phones is suggestive. Though certainly not conclusive: in drugs trials for instance only 10 phones or more are routinely interpreted as legally significant. An unofficial source, his friend Sian Lloyd-Jones, spoke of him having fake passports and learning new identities while visiting her London flat in January 2010 . Also, a ‘security source’ told two Guardian reporters Williams visited West London for work “monitoring foreign embassies”This contention aside, we can say Williams possessed arcane up-to-date knowledge, that would have been prized by many, whatever 'side' they might be on. There is no reason to dissent from Sir John Sawers, MI6 chief, describing Williams as "hugely talented...he did really valuable work with us in the cause of national security" .
Williams' death is luridly fascinating for the following reasons.
First, it is rare (excluding Northern Ireland) for a British spook (as opposed to asset/sub-contractor) to be killed on home soil--hence the shock.
Second, the multiple state agencies involved: MI6, GCHQ, Met Police & of course, MI5 and overseas services with an interest (the CIA/NSA for starters) make this a complex case.
Third, the mendacity of some 'journo-cops' covering this story is a salutary reminder of the parlous state of 'investigative journalism'. Additionally, the episode affords a chance to elaborate, and codify, NFB’s concept of 'SPIJ' (State Compromised Pseudo-Investigative Journalism), by analysing the different types of journalist-spook relationship.
Finally, the enigma of how he died: a riddle worthy of Sherlock Holmes (or Houdini) inevitably fascinates, not least because of the claustrophobic horror it evokes. Inasmuch as the flat was locked from outside, and stories he climbed into the bag freely outlandish, a true conundrum. The official police position pre-inquest, of a "suspicious and unexplained death" was oxymoronic and ludicrous.
to see the associated video-clips filmed at relevant locations, and to read more of this 21 page article, visit our sister-site www.borderlandmagazine.co.uk where you can purchase Notes From the Borderland 10 on-line. To buy by post, either visit that site, or click on the article below on Buying NFB by post/on-line.
TIMELINE/THE KNOWN FACTS
Some facts below are contested, and others will in time become so. Nonetheless, a basic outline is essential for serious analysis.
March/April: Williams reportedly told both MI6 and GCHQ that he was being followed by two (white) men in their 40s, but was apparently not believed .
May: 'unconfirmed' (and disputed) sighting of Williams at Bar-Code gay bar, Vauxhall (near MI6 HQ)
June-July: Williams has dealings with two couples, who may (or may not) be one and the same
Couple 1, of Caucasian appearance, had brief words with him between four and six times a week in the Patisserie Valerie coffee-shop & similar locations near Holland Park Tube Station .
Couple 2, of Mediterranean appearance, visited his home on one occasion at least, and did not use the intercom system to gain entry to the flat itself: perhaps indicating they had a key .
11th August: returns from a holiday in the USA using Washington's Foster Dulles airport, reportedly spoke to his sister Ceri on the phone the same day . Also visited Patisserie Valerie .
13th August: went & returned alone from watching drag cabaret artiste Jimmy Woo at the Bistrotheque gay club Bethnal Green East London .
14th August: CCTV captures him entering Holland Park Station, wearing cream trousers, red shirt & carrying a white plastic bag at 2.59pm. According to Sian Lloyd-Jones, he rang her that day, and this is the last time she actually spoke to him .
15th August: images show him shopping at Harrods and nearby in Brompton Road SW7, at 2.30pm. Wearing the same clothes--giving the impression he may have stayed out overnight .
18th August: in one account attributed to Ceri, the last day he was known to be alive--they spoke by phone . Another version says, rather, she tried but was unable to contact him. To complicate matters further, it has been reported that Williams failed to attend a meeting at MI6 that day . If both things (contact with his sister/failing to attend Vauxhall Cross) are true, a day of great significance.
23rd August: c.4.40pm, Williams’ body found by two police officers, in the predominant account alerted by MI6 about non-attendance at work that day. The lesser known version is that Ceri alerting the police (and also MI6) led to them visiting. According to Lloyd-Jones, Ceri called her at 11am that day, worried she had got no answer from Gareth over the weekend . Both versions can be reconciled, but it is nonetheless still unclear as to whether the initiative to formally act on Williams missing came from MI6 themselves or they were prompted by Ceri. As will be seen later such 'cognitive dissonance' is of great importance in this case. Thus began the ongoing police investigation ‘Operation Finlayson’.
24th August: Welsh police call at the home of Gareth Williams' parents (who were on holiday) to inform them .
25th August: first inconclusive post mortem carried out by Dr Ben Swift .
26th August: family formally identify mortal remains .
1st September: inquest opened & adjourned
3rd September: the date on which Williams had been due to return to GCHQ (& possible promotion)
6th September: Met Police release selected CCTV images of Williams' movements, and appeal for a mysterious "Mediterranean couple" to come forward.
8th September: inquest re-opened, and then re-adjourned, pending further autopsy (a second had been performed by this time) and information.
26th September: memorial service held at Bethel chapel in Holyhead, attended by family members and Sir John Sawers (MI6 Chief)
28th October: third and to date final post-mortem, by Dr Dick Shepherd, again inconclusive as to cause of death. Police repeat appeal for information on the elusive 'Mediterranean couple'
29th October: start of a slew of stories linking Williams' death to claustrophilia/bondage/sado-masochism in the media.
22nd December: Met Police release highly distinctive e-fits of the elusive 'Mediterranean couple' and publicise Williams' visit to a gay club, browsing bondage web sites & so forth. Police admit he could not have climbed into the bag and locked it without help, and assert that he was therefore not alone in the flat.
26th December: interview given by Sian Lloyd-Jones to the Mail on Sunday puts the cat among the media/spook pigeons.
15th February: coroner Paul Knapman re-opens & adjourns the inquest, delayed again for further toxicological tests.
31st March: the date Knapman gave for a resumption of proceedings, came & went. As did he--retired, replaced by the experienced Dr Fiona Wilcox, who took up her new post before noon on April 1st.
5th April: exemplary 'Week in Week Out' documentary on the Williams case screened in Wales, greeted with deafening silence elsewhere.
25th June/13th August: Daily Mail claim inquest will resume in September (it didn’t)
23rd August Met Police tell BBC Wales this is “still an active investigation”
30th March: pre-inquest review begins, full inquest scheduled to follow three weeks later. Series of claims made by family (they suspect murder by practitioners of ‘dark arts’) and police: the Mediterranean couple no longer important, one DNA trace on body now stated to be from a forensic scientist involved in the investigation.
23rd April: inquest resumes [fuller chronology follows in Part 2 of this article].
1st May: Fiona Wilcox tells Detective Superintendent Michael Broster he was biased towards MI6, due to keeping evidence from Sebire.
2nd May: Dr Wilcox delivers a narrative verdict stating this was an “unnatural death…mediated by criminality”, and that on the balance of probability Gareth was “unlawfully killed”. Very brave, in the circumstances. Sebire, meanwhile, is “actively pursuing new leads”.